After various delays and the thrilling conclusion to Heaven’s Feel, the next anime installment for the Fate franchise was released in December, 2020. With Fate/Stay Night officially over, Type-Moon has moved on to continue giving us the adaptation of Fate/Grand Order. Although a production sequel to the TV anime Absolute Demonic Battlefront: Babylonia, chronologically this new film serves as a prequel. Today, here’s our review of Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot – Wandering; Agateram -.
Starting off, the film already assumes the viewer is aware of what Fate/Grand Order is, and if not you’re not familiar with the franchise then you can expect to be confused for the majority of the film. Grand Order has almost no real connection to Fate/Stay Night, minus a few characters within the same universe. Based on the mobile game, the whole premise is that the player-character (called Ritsuka Fujimaru in the anime) is tasked with traveling back in time through seven instances of world history to correct the world’s timeline, alongside his partner, Mash, in order to prevent humanity’s annihilation in his own time. Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot tells the story of instance number six.
The film doesn’t spend any time introducing Ritsuka, Mash, or Leonardo Da Vinci (now presented as a girl) to us at the start of the film, giving no time for the audience to form a connection to them. Either you know who these characters are, or you don’t. We barely get a moment to understand what exactly they are doing in the middle of the Israeli desert, speeding towards Jerusalem (in a makeshift car) which is now occupied by King Arthur (also a woman) and her knights of the round table. After the first 15 minutes, it’s safe to say that if you haven’t at least watched Fate/Grand Order: First Order then you’ll be confused and disconnected from enjoying the film.
I had played up to the Camelot chapter in the mobile game, so it wasn’t a problem for me.
Wandering; Agateram cuts the first few story scenarios in the mobile game, which works to the film’s advantage. Instead of wasting time watching Ritsuka and company figure out their whereabouts in the desert, we jump right into the story introducing Sir Bedivere. In the legends of King Arthur, Bedivere was originally one of the earliest knights to join the round table, and the last to remain by King Arthur’s side until his death. Sir Bedivere was originally entrusted with Excalibur to return it to the Lady of the Lake, but in Fate/Grand Order, the story takes a turn for the worse when Bedivere disobeys King Arthur’s wish instead and denies his King’s death and passage to Avalon.
Consumed with rage, King Arthur takes up the title of the Lion King, recollects the remaining Knights of the Round Table, and crusades across Israel to reclaim the holy city of Jerusalem. The Islamic natives are cast aside by Arthur’s hostile takeover. The Hassan assassination clan sets up camp in the cliffs outside the city, and the Egyptian King Ozymandias rules the desert. Sir Bedivere wants to correct his mistakes, and Ritsuka needs to find the Holy Grail to rewrite history, and so the two join forces to put an end to King Arthur’s reign of terror.
As convoluted as it all sounds on paper, the overall execution of the story allows the audience to sit back and enjoy a dark fantasy and a riveting clash of kings. There’s a lot of mixed feelings. Since the real villain behind this paradox isn’t mentioned much or shown at all in the film, viewers can just focus on the conflict at hand. However, little explanation behind it all leaves much confusion as to what’s really going on, and who Ritsuka and company are. Wandering; Agateram is focused on the story revolving around King Arthur, but we’re supposed to be seeing it primarily from Ritsuka’s perspective, whom we learn little about. It creates a disconnect between the audience and the protagonist.
As stated before, Camelot is instance six, and it’s rather obvious we’re not meant for this to be the first piece of Grand Order we’ve consumed. Instances one through five have yet to be animated, and the prologue animation only explains so much.
Sadly, the most lacking technical aspect is the animation, and that’s really only in comparison to previous Fate adaptations. Although this new Fate/Grand Order film was well produced, me having just come off the orgasmic animation high that was the Heaven’s Feel trilogy made it feel lackluster in terms of visuals and animation quality. Not every studio can be as vibrant and fluid as ufotable (who also animated Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba), and that’s understandable. But with the inconsistency between studio projects, Aniplex might want to consider having a dedicated studio going forward to avoid crushed expectations and confusion from their fans. Plainly put, it’s like dropping from an SS-rank (Heaven’s Feel) to only an A-rank (Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot). Still top of the line and noteworthy, but we’ve already seen better.
Overall, I’m not sure what the final takeaway of this film is, even a month after its release, and having seen it twice. As someone who loves Fate/Grand Order, I thought the film was superb, the action was tight, the soundtrack suitable, the theme song catchy, the narrative was gripping, accurate and faithful to the source media, a little rushed, but still exciting to watch. However Wandering; Agateram isn’t kind to newcomers, or even casual Fate/Grand Order fans.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t have to be. After 20 years of media, I’d imagine anyone going to see the new Sailor Moon Eternal movie knows exactly what they are getting into. The same would apply to Dragonball or One Piece. But is Fate finally at that stage where they don’t have to keep newcomers in mind for every new piece of media? I’m not 100% certain of that…but I AM ready for part two, coming soon!
Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot – Wandering; Agateram – is scheduled to release in the west later this year. The finalized date is still undecided. The second half of the two-part film series will debut in Japan later this spring.